There has been a kind of mythology built around the Chicago Bulls that by amnestying Carlos Boozer this year, they'll have the opportunity to grab hold of a quality free agent next year. That's not quite true when you take a look at what the actual numbers are.
First, let's take a look at the current roster of players, taking into consideration those who are under contract next year.
That puts the Bulls well out of being able to obtain anyone significant through free agency. They would be unable to even sign anyone to a full mid-level exception.
The mythology states there are two things they could do to provide for a little economic breathing space. They can amnesty Carlos Boozer and they can waive Rip Hamilton, reliving them of all but $1 million of their obligation to him.
That would leave their salary structure looking like this.
Factoring in the million owed to Hamilton, that would put them around the $59 million mark. Adding in whatever rookie salary they acquire, that would put them at around $60 million. This would leave them the freedom to do two things.
First, they could acquire one player through trade with the $5 million trade exception left open by trading Kyle Korver to Atlanta. Secondly, they could acquire a player through their $5 million trade exception. They cannot combine these two to acquire one $10 million player.
The Bulls can't combine the Korver trade exception with another player. Nor can they sign a player to a mid-level exception, trade for a player using the Korver trade exception and then put those players together to trade for a $10 million player.
The best the Bulls can do is to let go of Boozer and Hamilton and get two new $5 million players. It's also worth mentioning that in regards to the Korver trade exception, teams aren't generally willing to part with quality players, getting nothing but cap space in return. Players that are let go for a trade exception are generally under-performing players.
Assuming that if they were to rid themselves of Boozer and Hamilton, who would be available in return? Finding more than something along the lines of Mike Miller for Korver's trade exception and Jason Maxiell to replace Boozer doesn't seem realistic.
There might be other moves, but not much better.
Would the Bulls be better with Miller and Maxiell than Hamilton and Boozer? That doesn't really seem to be an upgrade. After all, we're talking about the Bulls' second and third-leading scorers this season for essentially a couple of bags of flour. We're also talking about two players who are integrated with the system for two who aren't.
Perhaps neither player is what Bulls fans had hoped for, but perhaps they're also better than what they've been credited for.
It makes far more sense to wait for the 2014-15 season to amnesty Boozer when the Bulls can effectuate real change by doing so.
Four things happen at that time. First, Deng's contract comes off the books. Second, it's the most likely year for Nikola Mirotic to buy out his contract and come to Chicago. Third, Rose will have played a full season and should be back to MVP form, and fourth, the Bulls should be able to use their Charlotte pick by then.
Those things combine to make for a very different situation. The salary cap difference is enormous. Here's what they have under contract for the 2014-15 season.
Even when you factor in $5 million (the most they could offer) for Mirotic, and another $3 million for a projected rookie, that would give the Bulls $12 million in cap space. Combine that with what they could get by combining Deng in a sign and trade, and the Bulls could add a $15 million player to their roster.
Or else they could possibly extend Deng at a bit of hometown discount and another player in the $7-8 million range. Perhaps a player like Pau Gasol, past his prime but still able to give a significant contribution.
They could also let Deng walk, and maybe they can land a star.
Two years off is a long way to project because a lot could happen between now and then, but there's been speculation that the Heat might have to break up the big three. Chris Bosh isn't a wholly unrealistic possibility to team with Derrick Rose.
Furthermore, younger talents like Jimmy Butler and Marquise Teague will be more developed by then.
Amnestying Boozer in two years actually makes more sense than it does next year, particularly when you figure that for the Bulls, there's really financial advantage to amnestying Boozer since they have to pay him either way.
In the meantime, Bulls fans should't forget that the team has hardly been unsuccessful in the last three seasons. They haven't won any titles, but they've very much been in contention and should remain so over the next two. A title isn't impossible, even if one thinks it unlikely.
Letting the team be highly competitive while allowing a younger, more athletic roster to develop under Rose could well be a better long-term solution for the Bulls than making a move to just shed salary for the sake of shedding salary this summer.